The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
People begin to disappear from Holmes’s building more and more rapidly: waitresses, stenographers, and even a male physician. Strange odors float through the building, but when people inquire about the whereabouts of their missing daughters and wives, Holmes is apologetic and says he has no information, and the police are too busy to investigate further, since they have to protect the rich and famous visitors to the World’s Fair.
Holmes gets away with his crimes for years, in part because the police are incompetent and overwhelmed with work, but also because the police are biased against the poor. Their focus is on the wealthy, especially during the WF, when Chicago’s reputation hinges on its being welcoming to famous visitors from around the world.
Themes
Sanity and Insanity Theme Icon
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon
Holmes is different from Jack the Ripper: his murders aren’t bloody. Still, he likes to be close to his victims when they die. He kills silently, using chloroform, and quickly passes along the corpses to his associate, Chappell. He never keeps trophies of his victims — he is interested in the sensation of murder, not the bodies themselves.
Holmes isn’t really interested in women’s bodies; instead, he wants something much more abstract: a sense of power and control. This makes him much more dangerous, since his appetite can never be satisfied — he wants to kill again and again.
Themes
Modernity and Anonymity Theme Icon